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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index H > Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Karl Ferdinan von Humboldt Quotes

Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Karl Ferdinan von Humboldt
(22 Jun 1767 - 8 Apr 1835)

German philosopher and educationalist whose efforts in the theory and practice of education resulted in the reform of the Prussian education system, later modelled in the U.S. and Japan. He also contributed to the philosophy of language.

Science Quotes by Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Karl Ferdinan von Humboldt (3 quotes)

If we would indicate an idea … striving to remove the barriers which prejudice and limited views of every kind have erected among men, and to treat all mankind, without reference to religion, nation, or color, as one fraternity, one great community, fitted for the attainment of one object, the unrestrained development of the physical powers. This is the ultimate and highest aim of society.
— Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Karl Ferdinan von Humboldt
In Ueber die Kawi-Sprache, Vol. 3, 426. As quoted in Alexander von Humboldt, Cosmos: A Sketch of a Physical Description of the Universe (1850), Vol. 1, 358, as translated by Elise C. Otté.
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Regardless of communication between man and man, speech is a necessary condition for the thinking of the individual in solitary seclusion. In appearance, however, language develops only socially, and man understands himself only once he has tested the intelligibility of his words by trial upon others.
— Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Karl Ferdinan von Humboldt
On Language (1836), trans. Peter Heath (1988), 56.
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Words well up freely from the breast, without necessity or intent, and there may well have been no wandering horde in any desert that did not already have its own songs. For man, as a species, is a singing creature, though the notes, in his case, are also coupled with thought.
— Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Karl Ferdinan von Humboldt
On Language (1836), trans. Peter Heath (1988), 60.
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Quotes by others about Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Karl Ferdinan von Humboldt (2)

[Herschel and Humboldt] stirred up in me a burning zeal to add even the most humble contribution to the noble structure of Natural Science. No one or a dozen other books influenced me nearly so much as these two. I copied out from Humboldt long passages about Teneriffe and read them aloud on one of [my walking excursions].
Autobiographies, (eds.) Michael Neve and Sharon Messenger (2002), Penguin edn., 36.
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I find in Geology a never failing interest, as [it] has been remarked, it creates the same gran[d] ideas respecting this world, which Astronomy do[es] for the universe.—We have seen much fine scenery that of the Tropics in its glory & luxuriance, exceeds even the language of Humboldt to describe. A Persian writer could alone do justice to it, & if he succeeded he would in England, be called the 'grandfather of all liars'.— But I have seen nothing, which more completely astonished me, than the first sight of a Savage; It was a naked Fuegian his long hair blowing about, his face besmeared with paint. There is in their countenances, an expression, which I believe to those who have not seen it, must be inconceivably wild. Standing on a rock he uttered tones & made gesticulations than which, the cries of domestic animals are far more intelligible.
Letter to Charles Whitley, 23 July 1834. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1821-1836 (1985), Vol. I, 397.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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